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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 10, 2011 7:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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well. >> no one doesn't like to be served food in a home by a waiter and a butler, and i think maybe -- he's probably the kind of guy who went home and thought about his response and probably chastised him intellectually and emotionally and being so pleased with it. but we know he did live in that slave community but so did his wife enough to hate slavery itself. >> the two of them were much alike in that and people ask how did they get together? what made them? politics. >> yeah. >> positively. >> she was a junkie on that. >> yep. >> and so was he. >> exactly. >> well, harold, we thank you. i'm -- we're going to have upcoming virtual book signings and, of course, and you'll be o-archive right after the and we'll have harold sign some extra books so we will have them and those who have not heard their names we'll do that as
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well. our next virtual book signing is at 12:00 noon central time. craig simmons on lincoln's admirals and the last lincoln conspirator. john's flight from the gallows. it's a very interesting book on john serrat and he was on trial and, of course, his mother was hanged. on monday, november 10th at 6:00 pm you can go to our website virtual book you'll see listings of all this and we'll have a pulitzer winner james mcpherson with his new book and that should be very interesting. we're going to take virtual book signing on the road so if you want to see live james mcpherson, we're going to be at the mccormick freedom museum here in chicago. and i hope you'll all join us there or via the internet as
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well. and saturday, december 6th, at noon, central time, michael burlingame is coming in with a multivolume work, abraham lincoln, a life, a first multivolume since sandberg and i think this will be a fascinating large work that we will all be contending with. he's gotten into many new material especially in newspapers that he's buying and in other others and it might be a little contentious and i think it will be an interesting read. ..
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rematch for being here with us. i hope you enjoyed yourself. we appreciate the audience here and of course the audience out there and c-span for being here as well and hope he will come back again for another virtual book signing. again, to our staff, thank you very to simon and schuster for sending you here. thank you for joining us. see you again. >> this program first aired in 2008. to watch other archive booktv
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programs, visit next in "the black history of the white house," clarence lusane presents the history of african-american men and women who were employed at the white house in the 20th century. this talk from the harlem library of new york city is about an hour-and-a-half.
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>> [inaudible] this is a really good opportunity for me to have a chance to not only present my ideas and to talk about the book but also to have an exchange and get ideas from people, and as i've been doing these book talks about the black history of the white house, one of the things that i'm discovering is that there's more and more people are able to contribute, and particularly being downtown washington, d.c. i'm getting more responses not within the books but what's not in the books because people are saying my grandfather used to cut grass of the white house, my uncle used to work their, so follow-up to the book i'm going to try to do to really capture a lot of the stories now that the book helped let people know that these are important not just family stories but story is important for all of us. let me thank the harlem public
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library for having me at the hue-man bookstore. these are important institutions in the community and we should always make sure the we celebrate and herald the work that they are doing. i also want thank my publisher, city lights coming and in fact my editor is here, who is superb. [applause] now, what i want to mainly talked about today is some of the stories that are in the book, a little bit about how i got my motivation. january 1st this year in arizona and new law came into effect that essentially bans ethnic studies. in texas last year the conservatives took over the review of the state review of education and they changed the rules so that the change to curriculum that it's going into the text but so for example
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slavery is no longer mentioned and the changes so no longer will there be references to the positive civil-rights movement. about two weeks ago in tennessee the tennessee tea party had a meeting where they wanted to change the curriculum for the schools, so the questions we think are just questions about history really our debates about different perspectives how we understand how this country has evolved and who has been on what side of particular questions and it's usually with historical debates often they really are about contemporary issues. so when they talk about the civil rights was really about states' rights, which isn't true one, they are really talking about the politics of the day and an argument that states'
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rights is what should be governing the country as opposed to obama. so in a big kind of way, the issues that i'm talking out in the book appear to be kind of located in history but in many ways they are tied into the issues we are dealing with today, and what i wanted to do is get a context for trying to understand and realize the significance of having african-americans, a black american in the white house and a black american family. in 2007 and in 2008 as i travel around not only the u.s. but around the bold, because much of flight with my work is international and as i went to brazil and south korea and england people were constantly asking can he win the election, can he survive, what does it mean to have a black person in
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the white house and one question that came up is why is it called the white house. i could have given the libyans are like look at, white people when it. but as a scholar should do more research and have a more precise answer so that started some of my beginning to look at the history of the building itself because it's an iconic representation of what has been argued of american democracy and freedom, american liberation, but within that body, within that structure and the institution itself is carried all these contradictions are now the race throughout american history from the construction of the we ought to barack obama, michelle obama, sasha and malia so as i began to do this
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research let me find a book, find something and there's nothing there. it's very little or was scattered. so as i've often done when there was a whole i tried to fill it and so i said let me do a book may be 150 pages and i can move on the book grew to about 550 pages, and that's because one point the book began to right itself. as a writer you start writing your ideas are expanding but in the book starts to take shape and it really starts to pull you in particular kind of deductions and that is what happened with this book and there's a particular transformation that happened from my early conception to what end up being the finished product, and that's the narrative of individuals who have been in and around the white house, and each chapter opens with an extended story
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about a particular individual who's narrative kind captors and in bodies that particular era, and i want to give a voice and of life to these individuals that all of us who grew up learning american history, black history for never talked about this or exposed and these are individuals who were critical in helping understand how the contradictions are now race and the white house really existed. the opening line of the book more than a quarter of u.s. presidents owned slaves. at least eight of those presidents had slaves while they were president and the existed in the white house. we were never taught this. we were taught about thomas jefferson and george washington and the kind of work they did or not building democracy and freedom in the u.s..
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but we were never told the other side of the story. now we kind of new george washington had sleeves and thomas jefferson was getting it on with sally hemingses and we have those stories, but we didn't have the full stories and we didn't have the full context and we didn't locate it into the evolution in the history of the white house. and so part of what i'm beginning to uncover are all of these just remarkable fascinating stories about individuals who came through this process. so what i want to do is talk a little bit about kind of that history, bring it up to date and then open up for your questions, comments. now, the white house itself, the building we now call the white house didn't exist of course when the country was first found it and in fact, washington, d.c. did not exist.
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under the constitution and under a specific act of congress of 79 beat was designated that virginia and maryland would seek a certain part of their territory in which the nation's capital would be billed and this would be a ten year process because they were predicting this would be one of the grand cities to exist in the world at that time and that it would take ten years to make this happen. now part of the reason they said maryland and virginia and the southerners who control the dominated politics of the 13 colonies wanted to make sure that the south and slavery in particular would be protected in this process. and so they conceive this notion of the tenure to build the white house and the capitol and the whole city. now who's going to do this
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building? george washington initially said he wanted white europeans, and they put the call out there wouldn't allow white europeans wanted to get over in a boat and come over to the new country and bigotries and pulled rocks out on the side of the road, so they had very, very little success in recruiting so the turn to who they usually turn to who built most of the grand buildings in the country and that period, people who were enslaved. and actually we have a great deal of information now on the individuals who worked and build washington, d.c. and built the white house and the capitol. for example, we know that there were people who did unskilled labor, for example, washington was basically a jungle, somebody had to cut the trees, drag him out, might have to build in
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rhodes, hard, hard work. this was mostly sleeve labor but there's also a skilled labor carried on by people enslaved. flexible we know at least five who built inside of the white house, tom, harry, john, paul, we have their names and now there's probably three black labor involved and of course white labor. but black labor, black sleeve labor in bodies in the structure of washington, d.c.. in the capitol and in the white house. and when they were predominating 14 and it took three years to rebuild again the rely on slave labor to do that construction. meanwhile in the process while they are building the nation's capital, the issue is where will the president and the rest of the government be.
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and for a short period in new york eventually they all moved to philadelphia. so, washington and his entire household including his black slaves moved to philadelphia. he had to problems in philadelphia. one is a was the center of the abolition movement in the country. one the and the number of the free blacks, this is where you had the quakers and they were on that and they would set up the underground railroad, during petitions and lobbying, they were fighting to get rid of slavery. this is what george washington comes into with his household of at least nine black slaves. the other problem he had the ways in 1780 the pennsylvania state government passed what was called the gradual abolition act, and they said that anybody come any person that was enslaved that came into the states if you stayed for more
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than six months, you could be freed. this was a good deal. washington apparently didn't notice before he moved to the states and realized he had a problem. and so -- and we have evidence. he wrote letters to his staff saying i have a problem coming and he tried to get around this because there was initially a loophole in the law that said if the person left within a six month period when they came back the six months would start all over so washington can up with a plan to rotate people in and out of pennsylvania to try to get around the wall. eventually they closed the loop, but washington continued to rotate people in and out. now there were protests against washington and others who kind of petitioned him. this is where it really gets interesting. one of the individuals who was a slave to washington was a woman
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who is my new hero in life, and she was a young woman probably early to mid 20s who was mostly a slave to martha washington, she helped dress her committed cooking, household kind of work, and she found somewhere in 1795, 1796 that martha washington was planning to give her away as a gift for one of her relatives. what this meant was that whatever promise the washingtons had made to their slaves that at some point the would be free come out the door, and so began to make her plans to get out the door. and so one night in the spring of 1796 while the washington's were having dinner she went out
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the door and you can see her where is she? she was gone. she made contact with the black community there and her other personal possessions and then she vanished. now as it turned out, accidentally she was discovered to be in new hampshire, the washington's found out through complete accident so they decided to go after her because someone who declared himself as antislavery, you would have thought he would have said she's gone, i'm representing the country, let it go. they wouldn't let it go. so initially now they sent -- they were in there is about as they tried to do it in a subterfuge kind of way so they sent an envoy to meet with her and sit down and say if you come
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back then we will work it out, all is forgiven and we will let you free. she was like i misread now and i don't see the point of this discussion. i'm not coming back. so, that program failed. in washington decided will we will solicit the consent of the slave catchers after her and figure out a way to kidnap her and bring her back but she was warned, so she was able to get away and the washington's never got her back and she never went back into slavery and in fact i think she was well entreaties she learned to read and became active in her community and was as though she never went back into slavery all of the rest of her life she was basically a fugitive given the law of the country that time. now think about it, this is a young woman who basically
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dillinger is the most powerful person in the country, some small farmer, this is the president of the united states with all of the military and political power in the country at its back and call, but she is so driven by her own desire for freedom not to mention she writes about and talks about the inspiration from the haitian revolution which happened in the early 79 these and whether your letter it or not every single slave in the country knew about the haitian revolution but there were also in the american revolution, so think about it. the people were enslaved to jefferson and the other presidents they were there at every moment when the discussions and it's about american democracy, american freedom, the principles of the country were happening. they had more of an easier and more of and access to those debates and discussions than any of the journalists and scholars and people writing about the
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government at the time. so how could they not be influenced? how could they not understand these contradictions much more profoundly than anybody else out there? most of them didn't have the opportunities to east cape deacons -- escape but she did. she's one of the people who said i will risk it all. she got caught, the washington's really wanted to punish her and send her down to mississippi somewhere. it could have been a really horrible. she said i've got to go. we were never told this story. there was another individual who was a slave to washington in hercules. hercules was washington's cook. apparently one of the top five cooks in the country would have been on the show "top chef," because he was the man, and hercules was in philadelphia at
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the same time as part of the time when thomas jefferson was there not only with sally hemingses but sally hemingses brother who was his coke and would have been trained in france to cook just off the hook. now, at one point selling hemingses brother bayh is his freedom but the delays, jefferson said, you can body of your freedom but you've got to train somebody else to cook for me before i let you go. which he did. now, he's in philadelphia the same time as hercules. hercules had to see this going on. he of course knew that oni escapes of hercules at one point takes off. washington looks for him and hercules is on. we don't get these stories.
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another character in this period is paul jennings, and paul jennings was enslaved to the madisons, john and dolley madison. now, she was there when they burned down the white house. in fact the very day when the british were down the road and they could see the smoke coming from other buildings he was in the white house packing stuff, and they took off like within an hour or so before the british got to the building and burned it down. now, we actually have details about this because he actually wrote a memoir in 1865 and was the first memoir by somebody that actually worked in the white house and he talks about his relationship with dolley madison which is really interesting because when madison died, they're had been a promise that he would be free.
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dolley didn't free him and it took him awhile from 1847 for him to actually make enough money to buy his freedom. then he talked leader how dolly madison went into very hard times because all the friends and family abandoned her and he actually had to bring her food, give her money and help take care and the one had turned. one of the things he doesn't talk about is his role in 1848 thus leaves escapes the plot in washington, d.c.. one of the largest during the whole period of slavery. and what the deal was is that this is in april that on a saturday night while there were parties and good times going on in the city and this was a particular week because they were celebrating the revolution taking place in europe, the
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edification of the french lardy, other revolutions and other countries. now the contradiction here that they are suffering the revolution of freedom and they've got all these slaves but they are having party celebrating and it is a saturday night and the plan was that individuals would come because on saturday night many of the slaves who didn't have to be on the plantation and they had some freedom to move around they would come down to the docks and get on the boat and the boat would take off in the middle of the night and by the next day when it was realized they were gone if they would have such a head start they couldn't be caught so people started coming down to get on the boat. about 70, 80 people. they get on the boat and takeoff. they're doing fine but then they run into a storm and they have to pour through the side. meanwhile, back in washington, d.c., as it turns out, someone
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who, for different reasons has been speculated, turns him in and says the state. this leaves owners realized people were gone and they were putting together the policy but they were going to head north on foot which is how they thought people had a skate until this individual told them no they've gone south, so they got into the boat, a faster boat and they ended up capturing every buddy and bringing them washington, d.c.. many of whom ended up going deeper into the south into the much worse kind of conditions. now, paul come involved with the two other free black man wasn't on the boat and for whatever reason he was never tied into it, and it was intellectually after he died that it became clear that he actually had roles in this gigantic escape.
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but these are the individuals who during the period of slavery were absolutely fascinating that were never talked about or were never told about. elizabeth ackley , this is a black woman born into slavery and eventually bought her freedom, she had a very serendipitous life and she just kind of encounter all kinds of historical characters just out of the way she lived. as it turns out, the person she was enslaved to in misery was one of the lawyers to argue that the supreme court dred scott case. the dred scott decision was the 1857 supreme court decision that among things said black have no rights whites are bound to respect but it also said that slavery is fine and accelerated the drive towards the civil war. but she was connected with that just out of being connected.
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but she came to washington, d.c. in 1860 and she was -- started her own business and made dresses and was apparently really great at it. one of her first customers was vania davis, the wife of jefferson davis who became president of the confederacy. now, in 1860 -- of the end of 1860 after washington was elected, all the southern senators, the representatives started resigning because the new war was coming in as far as they were concerned was the end of the union, starting our own country and leaving and so jefferson davis also resigned and they were preparing to leave. now vania comes -- elizabeth says we are leaving. why don't you come with us and when we win the war and come back you can come back and be with us in the white house.
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now, elizabeth says that doesn't sound like too good of a plan. i will support you guys in the war and a second of all, no i'm not going down that road. now, later on she gets introduced to mary lincoln and becomes her best friend forever. they become really tight. she does all of her dresses and all that but even more so, the bond as women and sisters and they become very close. when lincoln dies and is estimated the first person mary looks for is elizabeth. both of them have lost children. lincoln's lost a son while they were in the white house and during the same period elizabeth lost her son and the war. so they find it at several different levels and after the
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war when mary lincoln, similar to dolley madison, was on a really hard times this was in the era where after you become president to become a zillionaire like now. if you didn't come in rich, you were not necessarily going to get rich coming out of it so mary lincoln actually had a hard time in the elizabeth was there for her quite a bit of the way. elizabeth also wrote a book some of which created strains between her and mary lincoln because mary felt there was too much personal information put into the book. the other thing about elizabeth is not her relationship with of the lincoln' she also was very instrumental in organizing and mobilizing people who left the plantation for the escape from slavery during the war and who have all kind of conjugated into washington, d.c.. they were called contraband, but there were tens of thousands and
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she organized for the relief and its after the war she was active in organizing for people who had come out freed from slavery after that period. so these are like really fascinating characters throughout all of this period, so when the obama saw' get to the white house, these are the ghosts. it's often said that obama stands on the shoulders of lincoln and kennedy and roosevelt, but also standing on the shoulders of these guys and these individuals who risk a great deal and a sacrifice a great deal in their lives and their stories need to be known, the stories need to be told as well. lots of these stories but actually, let me open it up for you guys. any questions you have, comments you have about the work i did and about the subject more
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generally. yes? >> [inaudible] last comment about obama standing on the shoulders of his ancestors that is appropriate for this wonderful discussion. alice walker did an essay on why she supported obama and one of the things i was touched by she stated everything you've discussed more in a spiritual way that all of those africans toiled and sleeved and died in the white house waiting for him i felt that was one of the more powerful statements that could be made. the other point is of the things he said that we don't know, it is important [inaudible] and i had the privilege of going to city hall in having one of the best african studies
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[inaudible] this kind of information you better believe we got [inaudible] >> that's important to know and i am always encouraging people to find ways to let the story is the spread particularly air around our families, and the stories that again seem to be family stories that really tell stories of particular localities and communities. i always argue this is and black history this is american history and is part of american history that has been marginalized or excluded. and so part of our resurrection is to not see this as something separate from the history but it really gives you the kind of basis to have the broad understanding how the country has evolved.
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yes, ma'am. >> of all of the people that you have discovered in the course of writing your book, is there any one in particular -- is their anybody else in particular that really stands out to you? >> there's a lot of people that stand out. i've spent decades writing about black politics and black history and writing this book a lot of it is great discovery for me and finding the individuals in the pockets of history that nobody knew or somebody new but were not pauperized. there was a character named james benjamin parker, who in 1901 was standing in line behind the anarchist's getting ready to
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assassinate william mckinley. they are at this festival, this will fare, and can lee is standing there and the security behind the secret service and the police and his hand wrapped in a band-aid which is hiding the gun and there is a big black guy standing behind him. the secret service and the police are focusing on progress. basically racially profiling like what is the deal with him not paying attention to this guide that is a around his hand. he steps forward and lyonnaise threatening and shoots mckinley wants commesso reaction, nobody does anything. so he shoots him again. the first bullet sort of bounces off and the second hits him in the abdomen. parker takes him down, beat him,
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finally the secret service and the police jumped into it. and they stop him. as it turns out, mckinley didn't die from the bullet, he died from creasy poor medical care. so actually he saves his life and stops the third bullet from being shot. now this story spread like crazy because it verifies the story of people like booker t. washington that likely were willing to sacrifice themselves for the country and they are part of this country and they believe in it like that. and so this happens in september and mckinley lives for like another 14 days. but the story is spreading and parker is a hero all over the country and people wanted to take parts of his close.
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the secret service gets embarrassed so once the trial happens they even denied there was a black person there. this is in the transcript and if he read the atlanta constitution from the period, even the constitution that is the conservative southern paper says that's not right. you know, they were like i didn't see any negro there. now of course, booker t. washington is brought around and as the result of mckinley being killed, theodore roosevelt becomes president and on october 16th, 1901, roosevelt finds out that booker t. washington is going to be in town and advises him to the white house. this is the famous dinner where they go berserk because the fact that a black man is eating at
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the white house and roosevelt's daughter and wife were there so the black man eating at the white house with white women becomes completely unacceptable, there's editorials across the country denouncing roosevelt the president so roosevelt back souls and initially they try to deny that washington was even there but they had issued a press release. so you couldn't quite put the genie that back in the bottle because you're own evidence says that he was there but it's basically that nobody black is invited to eat at the white house like another 20 years. and if you are going to the white house and the per code you are coming back in the back door if you're coming at all. this is october 16th, 1901. october 17th, 1901 the next day is when the building is officially designated to the white house.
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the juncture of these events takes place in the context of this is the height period of plunging and terrorism across the black community across the country not just in the south. so all of this kind of comes together and these things are discovered along the way. >> my question is it's not surprising about the racial profiling. this has been going on for a long time. once you're black you're out there. now my other comment is what does that mean in texas now? i don't know if you can elaborate on this but they're taking history of the book about blacks what about the citizens of texas who are black?
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>> texas is very disturbing for a number of reasons. one is it is the largest book by an state for textbooks and many of the publishers base their decisions on what happens in texas on what books look like and go to the rest of the country. so if they construct and reread the books in texas that is going to have a ripple effect across the country. the changes being proposed are challenged of course but it's not clear how far they are going to be able to have impact because it was basically conservatives including mostly the tea party types who dominated the decision making body that they were like hundreds of changes that were going on but we have seen in arizona spreading around the country so not just in texas and tennessee but other places.
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we see this for example of issues in the confederacy throughout the south there's a concerted effort and now hundred and 50 the anniversary of the civil war period 186-1160 years ago there is a concerted effort to our view a version of the cause of the civil war that are basically in conagra went with what really happened. as a for example there is this idea of states' rights at the center. in fact, the southern confederacy was actually opposed what happened during the construction of the constitution was the states' rights and federalism were kind of mixed in but the objective of the south was basically how we protect slavery. so the best way to protect it is to make sure a great deal of authority is with the states,
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however, there is a national issue that we should also want federal government protections of the fugitive slave law we for example in the 1850's and 1793 act were opposed to the states' rights they cityscapes lavery in mississippi and go to massachusetts if you committed murder you can be extradited or massachusetts has the decision to not extradite you. however, the escape from slavery you could be brought back. what happened is that the states in the north began to pass their own law and not enforce the fugitive slave law. if you read the secessionist doctrine from south carolina mississippi, north carolina, all those states, they specifically name the states they believe were violating federal law and
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the focus on not only the east cape boe also -- but also they are opposed to the allowance of abolitionist societies in all of the state's because slavery is protected by the constitution. if you have an abolitionist society in new hampshire or the northern states they are committing treason because they are going against the constitution. so the opposed the state's allowing them to exist the oppose the states to allow african-americans to vote because they saw these as anticonstitution. what we hear from the neo confederates is the civil war was maybe slavery had something to do that maybe it didn't have anything to do it. it was about individual rights, states' rights, and overreaching, overarching the
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government, which is exactly mirrors the politics of the tea party and the right-wing conservatives who make the same argument today that the policies in the country are in overreaching overarching big government headed by a black man to put the point on it. so you see these kinds of parallels evil thing and so we really are in a battle over ideas and a battle over interpretation and battle over meaning because we can't afford to kind of sit back and they said there will not be these other arguments out there that ultimately have an impact because how you think about history, how you think about the way the country has evolved, what issues have been resolved is not resolved impact on the political atmosphere and public policy. and so it becomes critical that we fight for a understanding of
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the process that is conclusive and takes into account these other issues people want to ride out. we all know we listen to michele bachman, representative michele bachman just the other week when she gave her response to the obama's steve of the union address. now this windel to millions, her response, cnn for some stupid reason put this on the air and she says the founding fathers did everything they could to fight against slavery. this is absolute nonsense. it is absolutely not true, but it reinforces and tells the perspective that has to be counted, and we have to have an alternative perspective for that
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secure remarks just now made me think of the controversy recently over the writings of mark twain and its use of the word nigger in the more famous text and how the extremists want to redact the original transcript to omit the word when his purpose was historically accurate and had all of the negative implications that it traditionally had and he had used it for that reason and it's amazing to me because a lot of this when you're saying now it's not so disturbing to me they put out the message as it was when it went unchallenged, you know, that to me is disturbing because i think what they are trying to do is for lack of a better way of putting it whitewash history so that if the evil of slavery in all this, the vestiges we
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live with right now cannot be adequately dealt with. for me that is the most frightening thing. >> let us remember this happened at the beginning of the congress for the first time they decided that they would read the constitution. now, with a suddenly began to realize as the moment the years is that the constitution had some problems here. for one thing it had the 3/5 calls that said people would be counted as 3/5 of a person in order to determine how they would appropriate the allocation of representation in congress. eight has the slave clause though allow for the slave trade for another ten years. once the republicans realize that if they actually read the original constitution, they are opening up some pretty ugly gates then they decide to do what people have been talking about what mark twain they are
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not going to read the parts that are embarrassing. how ridiculous is that if you're trying to educate people about the constitution and about the constitutional democracy? the reason they want to do that kind of sensory is because the objection is not to educate but it's actually to propagate and advance a particular political agenda that has nothing to do with people really need to understand the constitution, how it evolves and all of that history. that really is secondary and not of concern at all is really about we want to make a point that we are constitutional and the democrats are not. we are upholding the law, and everything we are doing within this and the democrats are outside of that. so that becomes the real objective. >> yes?
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>> [inaudible] from elementary school to high school in history, at least the interpretation of history has changed depending on what kind affect the would have even when you make the remark about sally hemingses and jefferson getting it on, it was more than that,, it was a man sitting in a young child, a pedophile colin and for years when you talk about the issue of the young african-americans there was this whole chromaticism [inaudible] if it occurred and how it can be
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consentual when, again, someone is yielding power, so even that remark about getting it on, this was a man who owned another human being and raped her. it's that simple as americans, african-americans and what slavery meant in its entirety is something we have to constantly work on to bring forth the truth. >> you're absolutely right. the story before the last chapter chases the genealogy of michelle obama, and the earliest racing goes back to the 1850's and it's a young woman who is raped and as you trace the
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history, this happens time and time again, and again, this is when you get a black family in the white house this is the kind of history that's brought in that we need to know, we need to have a grasp. yes, ma'am? >> [inaudible] >> as i mentioned, as i talk to people about obama and as somebody mentioned, it wasn't just obama's inspiration for people in the u.s. and african-americans, but globally. and so when people are asking me about obama, this is with admiration and hope and with ideas that if obama wins and becomes president this has an
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impact on us in brazil or this has an impact on black people in england, an impact on people in egypt. so all over the world, not only is it a repudiation of the bush years, but to some degree the repudiation of american history is now much of this and some of this was idealistic and unyielding expectations, but they were routed in what people saw and felt even without the details of this journey of african-americans from slavery all the way through getting to the point where you could somebody in the white house. as i said in the book turns out to be the worst president ever with the greatest, separate from that, this breakthrough and what
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it meant for people were around the world coming and it literally inspired people of african descent in russia, canada, italy, brazil to run faster. in 2008, because brazil has a weird law that you can run under any name you choose there are at least eight obama's that ran for office in brazil. they all lost. [laughter] but they ran, and they are activists now in brazil and other places who begin to see there may be some value in being engaged in public policy and political life activism and political movements. so again, whatever policy deal goes down with obama, that journey has had such a
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significance that it's just been a major breakthrough. and started to the context i found is there's a lack of comprehensive work i could kind of capture all of that and there are more books out on obama than any other president and lincoln and two years in office and there are hundreds on obama but none of them the frame of this history in particular the white house and the icon for me there was a way to certify say some things and a way to sort of getting to the issue that i didn't see out there. yes, ma'am? >> in addition to reading your book, where did you get the
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resources to find out the information that you're talking about? >> great question. a lot of it was just kind of digging into the archives have and the finals, reading the presidential biographies for example, and i read dozens of biographies of almost all of the presidents. i would say probably the for the biographies of presidents, and lead you down to other roads. traditional black history from john hope franklin, but a lot of was just sort of what i got from people, so for example, i was at a party with the actor that was on the lawyer and the baltimore series. so anyway, i was talking with
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clayton, it sure you write about blind tom and i was like who? blind, and he is an important body in this. the first black person to be invited to entertain at the white house. i was like okay so i went aside to do some research and it turns out that there's not a lot, but one woman spent her entire academic career writing about blind tom, wrote three books about blind. really important books, really good stuff. i tracked those down, two of them were out of print but i thought of them eventually and there's another book that's come out on blind tom, he was born blind and his mother and father were both slaves, and when they were both sold to this one family called the bethunes or
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above greens or the wiggins, he had many names, they threw tom and along the way because the family would say we don't see how we can really use him but to bring him along. so, while tom's mother and father were working, tom would be in the house kind of crawling around on the floor and at mckinley treating him like a pet dog. it turns out the family had a piano and the class of the piano lesson so one day the family is having dinner and a year the piano and they go in there and it's tom come he's like 4-years-old jamming to the classics and it turns out he's a musical prodigy who can reproduce music. what is the family to? the exploit him.
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so they create a whole career at the age of six, seven, eight and he's traveling around the country during performances and he's brilliant. he's considered one of the most brilliant composers of the 19th century. says this is in the 1850's. 1859 she is up in washington for some reason and ends up getting invited to the white house, president buchanan's the five white house and he does a performance and is the first african-american of and the people who were slaves for example, but the first invited african-american to perform at the white house. this is information i was given just by having this discussion at a party. there was another example at the grocery store and i talked to somebody and they asked me if i ever heard of abraham and i was like no.
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you've got to talk to him. so it turns out that he was the first african-american to be on the president's secret service detail. now this is like a totally crazy story because bolden was in the state trooper chicago and the ended up when kennedy was elected and wanted to expand the service ended up being hired to the secret service, and so he passed the office in chicago, so he is working one day and kennedy comes to chicago so they are going to provide security and so that the place where they provide security, there's the basement next to the toilet, while kennedy is doing whatever, so he's down there as it turns out kennedy has to use the restroom so he's standing there and he hears all this noise and then he looks up and kennedy
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sees him and says for you the chicago police? no, secret service, so then he says would you like to work on the presidential detail? this is kennedy, no camelot inclusion, all of this so he says yes, it sounds like a good deal. so a couple of months later he ascends to washington dc. it turns out the secret service races to the core. ..
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>> he thought this was more information than he needed to know, and he also thought there were two plots to kill kennedy, one in florida and one in chicago in november 1963 that also the commission was not being told about, and so bolden starts complaining to his superiors that we need to get this information in. they were like, no, no, stay out of this. bolden decides to secretly give information to the warden commission. he comes to washington, d.c., his superiors find out about it, end up arresting bolden, charge him with taking bribes from another case. he goes to jail, first black
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african-american. jail for three years, part of which is in a mental institution. right. i never knew this story. now, this is tied into bigger issues because part of the reason they went after bolden was because bolden would have exposed operation amworld, and this was a plot by john and robert kennedy to assassinate cassrol in december 1963, and this information has come out because under the presidential document assassination papers release act of a few years ago, they finally started releasing papers on the kennedy assassination, and in those papers were detailed descriptions of operation amworld. >> [inaudible] >> no, this happened after the
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bay of pigs, but it was a clear plan by kennedys with individuals, in fact, individuals high up in the cuban government, to carry out this assassination, and bolden would have exposed that if he had started talking about the other plots and moved the investigation in that direction. >> [inaudible] >> yeah, bolden wrote a book, has a long, long, long title, and he's been trying to basically get vindication, and, again, with the new papers that have come out, they basically support his story now. he's not going to get the three years that he went to jail for, he was railroaded. when he went to trial, the judge's instructions to the jury was that basically this guy is guilty. you guys go deliberate. in the first trial, they came
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back and said no, and they had a second trial, the same judge, and they found him guilty. all right? they had no single preliminaries on his record at all to that point, and the people who testified against them recaptained the stories, the whole thing. >> [inaudible] how long did it take you to gather your information? >> well, i usually say 57 years because in many ways these are stories we had all our life that we had to step back and deprogram from, but actually about two and a half three years of this kind of digging, digging, digging, and, again, the book just started to grow and drive its own narrative, and so it's out of my control at a
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certain point, but, yeah, took about that long. yes? >> where is the book being sold? >> it's -- you can get it online, of course,. you can get it at city lights as well as amazon, and it's in the bookstores. we're on a second printing because we actually sold out, and so it'll be available, and unfortunately, i left my copy i was bringing with me in the car, but you can see from the picture there what the book looks like, and the cover is from a very famous photographer who took pictures of many actually famous african-americans, booker t. washington, people like that, and this is from 1898.
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the easter egg hunt started under president hays, and initially it was at the capitol, but then congressman complained about the kids tearing up the grass and whatever, so they moved it to the white house, and it became one of the few venues by 1898 where you had inte -- integrated public events, so that's why we have the white child and black child together because outside of this easter egg hunt in the grass, in that period, segregation was pretty rigid. this was two years after the plesi vs. ferguson trial, and segregation is legal across the country, and two years before the last black member of the congress was thrown out of office and there would not be
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another one for another three decades. any other questions, comments? yes? >> this is a personal question to you. i know that you are wearing your wedding band, how did your family deal with you in the process of gathering your information? i assume a lot of time was taken up. >> yes and no. i tried very much to have balance; right? i have a 22 month old son; right? during the time i was writing this, he was really young, and so, you know, i had to make sure i take time with him, and it wasn't as much as he was demanding my time as much as i was demanding his time. it's like my kid; right? i want to play with him, and i
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should be writing, you know, and i want to help him walk when i should be editing, so you try to have a balance, but, you know, it's demanding, and, you know, at the end of it, you breathe a sigh of relief before you move on to the next project, but, you know, that's what i do, and it was, again, you know, working closely with my editor, working with other people getting, you know, sending it out to people to read and get comments and stuff like that. it was, you know, in many ways a collected work as well. >> i have two quick things. >> okay. >> one on plesi vs. ferguson, one of the things that surprised me when i read it was ferguson, i mix which one is which, i think plesi was a fair skinned black man.
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>> right. >> what i didn't know looking back at that was the reason why that case was so important was because he was fair enough to pass. >> roight. >> and that was the whole thing with, you know, how much black blood, you know, that the person has to be declared black and therefore inferior. that shocked me because in a lot of classrooms they talk about that case, but not the ugliness of the color, you know, controversy that still is with us. that last thing, what's your next project? [laughter] >> oh, well, i actually have several. i'm working on a book looking at the intersection of jazz and international politics, and it basically looks at how over the century of jazz, how it's been appropriated and become meaningful in countries around the world, and i've been in
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about 60 countries, and there's pretty much in where i've been where there hasn't been a jazz culture of some sort. i was telling b 134-b the other -- somebody the other day that i was in north korea, and the north korea marching band was playing some jazz. i think they were doing the a-train or something, and just kind of all over the world, and so what does that mean? you know, how are they processing that? do they see it as american music or black music? do they see the roots of it? do they see it as blending in with their music? a challenge to their music, is it high bred, is it pure? all those questions. i teach a class, and these are questions we explore in my class, but there's not a comprehensive work that allows us to see jazz, in particularly
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using the concepts of international legislation, capitalism, democracy, all those terms as a way to understand how jazz exists, and then i'm working on a book also looking at what my colleague and i call disaster capitalism, and it's impact on marginalized communities in the united states. there's a lot of information that came out about what's happening locally in our communities really is embedded in these macroeconomic changes that are going on. this is one of the issues i think, for example, around egypt, is mubarak needs to go, and mubarak is a means to go, and the political corruption of that system needs to change, but short of all of that, it's tieing to the global economic
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structure really are the restrictions that because at this point, it doesn't matter who is in there, and unless those get addressed, the reason people are rebelling that they don't have opportunities, they are getting educated, but there's no jobs available, those are tied in in a great degree to the global structure. i'm working on a book with that. i'm also looking at post racial blackness in asia and looking at kind of the experiences of people of african dissent in a number of different asian countries, japan, korea, and china in particular, and i'm going to china later in the year to do research there. okay, and -- oh, okay, no, no that's fine. that's some of the stuff i'm working on. >> your research concerning jazz, i hope you take the time to read a periodical called
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freedom waves. >> yes. >> it's an article there by one of my favorite writers written in 1980 called "will jazz survive," and i think it's a must read. in terms of post racial blackness, you may want to check out a site of a historian who specializes in the african presidents in asia. i had the pleasure of meeting him. you go on to his website. i don't know where he's going to be in new york, but he's also traveling throughout the orient. >> okay. >> and that is pretty much his research, the african presence in japan and china. >> yeah. >> ect., and hopefully maybe he'll be down in the dc area since he's there often too.
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that's my gift to you for a very enlightened afternoon. >> okay. well, thank you so much. i will follow-up. >> hi. >> hi. >> my question is in what ways do you think you can project these vital pieces of information to the younger african-american community being that, you know, we're the up and coming, and we have to pass it on. through what medium do you think you could project it to? >> well, apparently, i have to do facebook -- [laughter] the internet, and it's very different way of publishing now, but it's become inevitable and inescapable, and so i'm working with my publishers. they put up facebook pages and
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internet pages, but i'm also thinking about this in terms of this exact question you're asking. how do you begin to reach through the mediums available now the kind of audiences who are not necessarily going to pick up a book. it's not that bad to deal with it. people are going to get information in different ways. how do you accept that in us older guys, the mode we are comfortable in, but really become more modernized, and so i think, you know, i'm exploring that as much as i can, and i've basketball writing -- and i've been writing articles that have gone up on the internet. i don't really have a blog. i have things that have been blogged, but i don't really have a blog site itself, and so i probably need to kind of work on that, but i'm counting on my 22 month old too actually to deal
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with this. i have an ipad which he uses more than i do; right? so i suspect, you know, in a couple years, i can just ask him, how do i get this to work? [laughter] that's the deal, but that's the question. i think there needs to be avenues as well as for young people to have these kind of interchanges and interactions kind of generationally, and we haven't been -- and when i say we, particularly, i'm thinking people my age. we haven't been all that conscious of creating these mechanisms and vehicles through which we can have these kinds of interchanges as institutional, not just sort of a one-shot deal, but ways that are ongoing, multicross generational dialogue and institution and debate. >> yeah, i'd like to know about your journey as a writer, the
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seed of it, when it began, when did you find out that you were a writer? how did that all come about? >> okay. actually i don't think of myself as a writer. i write books, but i don't think i'm a writer. i think tony morrison is a writer who the rest of us bow down to. well, actually it started for me in the 1960s. i grew up in detroit, and in 1967 we had these race riots in detroit in july. it started a few blocks from my house, and it was really, really hot. it was like 95, 97 degrees at mid might, really, really hot, and everybody was out in the street. my mother, sister, and i and neighbors walked a block or so down to the main avenue where
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basically all of the action was going on. we had been there for a very short while, and then this car drives up, these two white guys get out, take out a shotgun, and start firing at the corner. everybody gets shot except for me. my mother was shot, sister was shot. fortunately, they both survive. you know, the injuries were not really, really serious, by this was like when i was like 12. now, in reaction to that, the city started building community centers, and they really were trying to figure out how do we like not have this repeatist again? now, actually it happenedded the next year when martin luther king was killed in detroit was a city that exploded. what happened in the interim was that people who were my age were taken off the streets and put in commune centers, and we were
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learning to do community services a lot of which was putting out our community news letter. this is where i learned to write. people who were doing this said well, your subject and verbs should agree. you have to make sense in this newsletter. [laughter] this is where i begin to say, oh, oh, yeah, maybe school has some utility. that's where i began to like writing. i never thought of it as a career at all. when i was in undergrad, i majored in communications and not journalism. my journalist teachers kept asking me to go into journalism, and i kept refusing. in that sense i never saw myself as a writer, but i've seen writing as my means to try to have an impact. if i could sing, if i could
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dribble, oh, man, i wouldn't be standing here, but given that, my talent is literacy, so, you know, that's what i do, but that's my journey, and then basically there's not been a time when i haven't been writing even though i've had many, many other kind of professions. yes? >> [inaudible] >> now, i think the image of michelle obama, barak obama, and his two girls is the most powerful image in the world
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because everybody nows they are unassailable, their integrity, their love of the family, their bonding, it just jumps off the screen at you; right? that, i think, is an embedded image that this country has needed for decades that the way in which the black family has been demonized throughout american history, the way black women have been demonized throughout black history, the way children have been demonized in black history, this all counters there, and it's not the cosby fantasy, but it's the real family going through a whole lot, and what they are going through, the death threats, and the things they get that we don't know about and live with every single day and will be
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living with for the rest of their lives, their commitment, we want to change this country, move it in another direction, that's the way it is. you know, i thought the best thing was, you know, little sasha speaking chinese. you know, that is an amazing image. you know? it also is reflective of their parenting and their sense of education in the 21st century really is more than just what we thought it has been. it really is about speaking internationally and globally and preparing yourself. >> do you intend to do a documentary or is that in your realm of doing things? >> it's not within my realm of expertise. i don't know.
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mien i think there are the subjects in the book really do warrant in many ways a visual expression, and so i don't know, but i think, you know, these stories and the stories i was telling you there's a lot more. it's really kind of fascinating, and it would be something i would love to see up on the screen. >> i notice you wrote a book, and did you start it before the current president was elected? >> my idea started before because, again, in 2007 when barak obama started to explore being president, it already became a really kind of electric idea, and once he announced at the beginning of 2008, then -- well, i guess it was 2007 --
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then it was a story to follow. even if he didn't win, i thought it remitted a leap or a departure from the jackson campaigns, and those had been important, but those, of course, were built on the shirley chism campaign, so it's a building process going on, and obama steps out there, and remember when obama announced, it was the day that there was the annual state of the black country thing, whatever that was, right, and there was some displeasure that obama announced in illinois, in springfield, where lincoln announced basically, and not in -- i think there in north carolina. the argument was i'm not diesessing --
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dissing you guys, which includes you guys, but it includes everybody else. the message i'm sending is we're in this to win, to represent the interests you're having at that meeting, but the interests in meetings in l.a., ghettos in texas, all over the country, and we're going to go on this road, so already you get this kind of departure that as a political scientist is significant, and then you start to see the changes in the pulling from overwhelming majority support of hillary clinton by the black community starts shifting towards obama. part of it was when he won in iowa, but i think even beyond that, the shift was already happening because people were seeing something very different, and he wasn't the black candidate. he was a candidate whom was
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black who was raised with really profound issues, and particularly in the post-bush atmosphere, it was really kind of significant so even before he was elected, you know, i was starting to try to get a handle on, you know, who is this guy, and what does he represent politically that may be different? >> various reactions to his presidency. do you plan a sequel to your book or a book that only deals with the reactions, the various reactions of his presidency especially considering the reaction to certain segment of the white community to his presidency. >> you know, i'm thinking about it, but i need to find a way in that is different from the dozens of books that are out there already, from black scholars to white scholars, black journalists, white
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journalists, stop talking before, but also one other books i'm working on is looking at comparatively because my area is comparative politics, the impact of president obama's policy on race equality compared to the former president lula's impact in brazil and her politics because in many ways they are comparable. they both were in terms of background, she comes from a very impoverished deal, 4th grade education. when he was elected, it polarized the country because the southern part of brazil, said we're not going to have this low class uneducated man representing the country, and he
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faced that, and the north which was marginalized said we are glad to have him because he represents the working people and so he won, and when he won, he began to bring changes, and lifted millions of people out of poverty, has made massive kinds of improvements in the country. now, all that hasn't necessarily come down to the brazillian population, some of it has, others hasn't, but that's a story to be told, but it parallels obama's tenure, now the question is president obama going to be two years or eight years? or two more years and then six more years? if he's reelected, this book is on hold because it's still basically seeing the book is not or obama's book is not complete yet, and so it's basi


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